I’m sure I’ve written on this speech one, two, or ten times already but for some reason it resurfaced this morning for me. I thought about it a little differently today. Steve pleads eloquently in the speech for us to blaze a path of passion in our lives:
Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
But this morning it hit me: I don’t really know what this looks like or certainly not what this feels like. I’ve heard “follow your passion,” in about a million different ways, but the truth is this notion is really abstract for me. It’s like someone telling me “be a billionaire.” I might have some image in my head of what that may look like, and perhaps some ideas of what it may feel like, but ultimately I know almost nothing about living like a billionaire. The same is true for me when I hear people say “follow your passion.” I don’t know what that means, what that looks like, or where that is. So how do you get directions when you don’t know where you are going?
You get lost. I really want so badly for someone to sit me down and say “go there, do this,” but unfortunately this won’t work. It wouldn’t work for anyone. It reminds me a lot of the story my mom told me about learning to ride my bike. I tried to learn at a very early age, and I was determined to get it very quickly. I didn’t want to screw around with the process, I just wanted to ride. So after an hour or so of falling, I lost it. I screamed at my mom to just “tell me how to balance.” I felt that learning to balance was something you could be told how to do, as if my mom was holding the secret over me for her own enjoyment. That obviously was not the case. You have to feel your own way, fall a few (dozen) times, until it clicks.
The same is true for “finding what you love.” You can’t follow a recipe for success (although there is an enormous industry built on the premise that you can). There is no “one size” fits all here. But there are themes. I think you can read about, meet with, learn from those who apparently have found their way. I’m really interested in talking with and meeting more people who have “found what they love.” I know they can’t tell me how to do it, but perhaps I can learn a few tricks of their trade. This isn’t some ancient secret hidden from us all, this is something real people are doing everyday. I’m going to find my way, I figure I just might have to fall a few (dozen) times. It can’t hurt to talk to some people who already have their balance.
Despite many attempts over the last few years of my life it seems like I’m more easily distracted. With growing reliance on my cell phone and email (and my email on my cell phone), it seems I have less and less moments where I’m really alone with my thoughts. Despite being aware of it, I generally respond immediately to the buzz of my Blackberry. My gmail is open literally all day, even though I am well aware that email is the ultimate distraction. Actually email may be my ultimate addiction. I love my google reader. I love my twitter. Basically, I’m overstimulated. Way overstimulated, to the point where I don’t really feel like anything I work on gets the time and attention it deserves.
I found this great blog post over at Information Arbitrage where he talks about the same thing (I feel the same way, except for the wife / kids part, I’m not quite there yet…):
If there is one thing I am, it’s overstimulated. Too many activities. Too many obligations. Too many e-mail. Too many social networks. Huge emphasis on my wife and two boys; coaching, playing, living, loving. Which leaves time for – recovery, maybe. Something has got to give. I love to read; I don’t read enough. I love to write; I don’t write enough. I love art; I don’t see enough of that, either. I love meeting interesting people; I do some of that but would enjoy spending more time with really cool people I can learn from. Bottom line: my attention is very broadly scattered and I hold it all together (most of the time), but I feel like I should be happier and more satisfied given my tremendous effort in all areas.
This, especially in tech savvy crowd, is very common. I realized yesterday in my computer / email sabbath that during the week, I have less than 10 minutes a day in silence (and this 10 minutes is HARD..I’m working on it Jerry). The rest of the time my brain is flooded with information. Constantly. WSJ, phone calls, blogs, phone calls, twitters, IM’s, occasional meetings, the occasional book and emails. Lots and lots of emails. Does any of this stuff actually do anything to improve my life, to move me closer to my life’s goals? It don’t think so. So how can get my brain / thoughts back?
I tried being more organized with my tasks and time. I struggled. I felt like my todo list was more a running tally of stuff I thought I needed to do a few days ago. I tried the GTD system hoping for that zen like state of productivity and concentration, but realized that adding more systems to my life only meant more distractions. I am still very reactive in my days. Yes I set out with goals for each day, but unfortunately my email flow dictates what needs to be done most of the time. I can’t help but react to the buzz of a new message. Living this way (for me at least) seems to be the equivalent of running on the treadmill. It burns my energy, it wears me down, but at the end of the day I didn’t get too far.
I need to make some changes. I need to limit the email flow. I need to set aside time, at least a little time each day, where I am allowed to just think (walking the dog is the perfect time for this). I need to limit my google reader and twitter exposure to certain times of the day. Bottom line: I need to set some boundaries for these many distractions. I need to set my brain free again. After my break yesterday, where my brain felt so clear, I know it is the right thing to do. Perhaps the real secret to success in the information era is not to gather the most information, but to know how to shut it off.
(this post even felt scattered…sorry about that)